NEW YORK—In a letter sent June 19 to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, PEN America and eleven other organizations urged the governor to fully fund the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium at the $2 million level currently in the FY 2020 Budget.

As in many places across the U.S., New Jersey has been left with dwindling local news coverage as media outlets around the state struggle with layoffs and consolidation. In response to this growing crisis, Governor Murphy signed the Civic Information Consortium into law last year after the bill passed the New Jersey legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. Created as an independent 501(c)3, the Consortium was envisioned as a mechanism to invest in quality local journalism, media startups, and other efforts to keep the public informed, engaged, and invested. The original legislative proposal aimed to earmark over $100 million for the Consortium. That number has been reduced recently to $2 million. As the New York Times reported last year, the Consortium places an “emphasis on projects aimed at low-income or minority communities, or areas that have been especially undercovered by news organizations.”

“An informed citizenry and electorate are necessary for any democracy to thrive, and a vibrant local media is needed for residents to be aware of what’s happening in their communities,” the letter reads in part. “This is especially true in a state like New Jersey, with 565 municipalities, each bustling with its own unique issues, challenges, and developments. Local news is an invaluable resource that keeps residents informed, civically engaged and invested.”

“The Consortium is a carefully crafted effort to find an innovative solution to the decimation of local news ecosystems,” said Nora Benavidez, Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “In the fight to preserve local news across the U.S., it is vital to support and test out new models like this one, particularly given its focus on elevating the voices and concerns of those who have been systematically underserved. If successful, the Consortium could provide a blueprint for other states to diversify the funding streams for local reporting and elevate access to robust, diverse sources of local news. But if the proposed funding drops any lower, the Consortium may not come to fruition. The governor now faces a critically important opportunity to protect and support local news by signing the bill.”

PEN America is active in supporting freedom of the press in local communities around the country. Our Press Freedom Incentive Fund provides financial support for initiatives that mobilize communities to demand an independent and robust local press. By uniting supporters, readers, and writers from coast to coast in support of journalism, PEN America stands in solidarity with local newsrooms nationwide. PEN America is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that does not endorse political candidates.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: PEN America media consultant Suzanne Trimel: [email protected]